Choosing an e-reader

Okay, so you have purchased an e-book, paid for it and see it land in your inbox. What do you do next and how does one proceed to get the best out of this new beast?

Ebooks are read using one of two methods: a) using a dedicated e-reader and b)using reading software on your tab (like a Nexus or iPad).

An ebook reader is a convenient piece of technology designed to suit the needs of an avid reader- easy to use and carry. Ebook readers take up less space than paperback and one can easily download the new releases at the comfort of their house. But like all electronic devices, ebook readers have their set of drawbacks.

Each ebook reader is different from the other in at least two aspects:
a. There is no standard format in all the various readers available and hence an ebook will appear differently when viewed on different readers such as the Kindle, the iPad, the Kobo or any e-reading software on electronic tabs.
Web based readers also read differently when viewed on different systems. The difference in readability varies according to the Operating System on each of these devices.

image credit: dave.ceylon (flickr)

image credit: dave.ceylon (flickr)

This is because e-books are primarily developed in 3-4 formats i.e. the mobi format, which can be viewed only on the Amazon Kindle reader and on tabs using the Kindle app, the epub format, which can be viewed on many more readers including the Kobo, the Nook and the iPad, besides on many tabs, the HTML format which can be viewed in most browsers just like web pages and the PDF format which allows one to read on the computer screen comfortably. While purchasing an ebook, therefore, it is important to know which type (format) of ebook your reader will support. In most cases, readers will support only one format of e-books and not the others.
Publishers must keep this in mind while undertaking development of ebooks because the ebook developer may be qualified to develop in only one format.

b) Ebooks do not have the concept of a page because a page is as big as the screen of the device you use and how much you zoom in or zoom out while reading. This may seem harmless but it is important that you use the bookmarking feature available in most readers to enable you to go back and check something. When you zoom in or zoom out (increase or decrease font size) you will find that the number of lines or text on your screen change. Viewing the same ebook on a smaller screen (a small phone) will change the view yet again. This is because the text is free flowing in an ebook, which means the text will move on to the next page and so forth when the font size is changed. This irregularity can be tackled by having the text in a fixed layout. Fixed layout refers to setting up a page with a fixed set of text. In such a case the text will remain in place even after zooming it in or out. This option works best with epubs but not with the mobi format.

Ebook readers rarely accept all ebook formats. Similarly, navigation within a book is better aided in some readers and not so well in others. Not all readers offer wireless facility which makes downloading books a hassle. In many cases, the battery life is an added disadvantage. A crack on the screen or software malfunction can easily damage an ebook reader. Make sure that you consider the cost, compatibility and other software issues when purchasing a reader.

– Wileen Barretto

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